FEATURE: They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but what can you say about an old dog that never learns? Former high school gym teacher turned cocaine kingpin, Kevin Michael Geraghty, may very well be asking himself that question after he was arrested in connection to Australia’s largest ever cocaine bust this month, with 1.4 tonnes of the white powder discovered on a yacht on its way to our sunny, uncorrupted shores.
HOW DID A HIGH SCHOOL GYM TEACHER BECOME AUSTRALIA’S BIGGEST EVER ALLEGED DRUG DEALER? SERKAN OZTURK FROM TRUE CRIME NEWS WEEKLY REVEALS ALL ABOUT THIS REAL-LIFE BREAKING BAD.
It’s a feeling the 63-year-old Sydney local will know all too well having been busted 20 years ago for a similar scheme that was foiled by an international police sting involving the FBI and fake pilots flying a military plane from America full of cocaine. This time around, it seems Mr Geraghty and his crew – many of whom are long-time pals who he would once entertain in his school gym – decided to forgo the air route and instead concentrate on making their ill-gotten millions via the more traditional pirating method of ships on water. After being watched for over two years by a number of police forces, Mr Geraghty and his mates were arrested this week for their involvement with a yacht discovered off the NSW coast that had more than $300 million worth of cocaine onboard.
Despite being caught out again and even the Federal Government’s justice minister, Michael Keenan, loudly trumpeting his arrest, True Crime News Weekly can confidently say that Mr Geraghty is one of the most successful drug traffickers that Australia has ever known. We’ve had a long interest in the career of Mr Geraghty, simply for the fact that he was our gym teacher at Randwick Boys High School in Sydney’s eastern suburbs in the late 1990s.
Before he became a phys-ed teacher at a public school, he was once an international kickboxer and with his buff and muscled physique looked every inch of it. He had the legs and arms of someone who had kicked and punched a few people to say the least. With his super-tight white shorts, fitted gym singlet and spittle oozing from the corners of his mouth whenever he went into a rage (which was often), Mr Geraghty would make sure you knew whose gym it was, and who ruled over it. He used to take special delight in seeing little kids being smashed in the face by balls pelted by other kids in a game called ‘Bombardment’ that was like dodge-ball, but more violent. We remember one occasion – where an overweight kid didn’t want to participate in that day’s chosen gym activities – and Mr Geraghty went apoplectic with anger – his face turning all red, sinews and veins popping out from his face and under his tiny gym shirt. Whether it was ‘roid rage’ or something else, one can only guess. There were other times when he was funny and up for a laugh. All the other gym teachers got along great with him. All in all, he definitely wasn’t the ‘worst’ teacher.
But Mr Geraghty wasn’t just like any other hardarse high school teacher. Even as a spotty, short-sighted student we remember rumours that Mr Geraghty had some of his former “rugby boys” dealing sticks of weed at parties on the weekend on his behalf. You kind of wish for those stories to be true. Because then Mr Geraghty would be pretty much like any bad suburban pot dealer trying to pass off a few grams here and there for an extra $50 or so. If he was dealing marijuana, he soon moved up in the drugs trafficking world. And he would soon be making moves that would make Scarface proud. But just like that film’s motto, “The world is yours”, comes crumbling down towards the end, Mr Geraghty too would make one deal too many. First in 1997, and then again 20 years later, this very month, in 2017. Before there was Walter White and Breaking Bad, there was Mr Geraghty.
It was a Tuesday afternoon and we had gym for period five. Mr Geraghty who had been taking classes earlier that day suddenly came down with a mystery illness and his gym colleague, Mr Cargill, ended up taking us while we threw balls at each others’ heads and ran around a basketball court.
But Mr Geraghty wasn’t unwell. Nor was he sick. Instead, he was at the (good, old) Penrith Panther’s club on the other side of the city with a few mates. They were closing on a deal with a couple of corrupt American military pilots looking to make a fast buck by flying over some cocaine from LA. But if Mr Geraghty thought he was getting one over us kids that day by ‘chucking a sickie’, cosmic karma was about to bring some justice down upon him in western Sydney. Those military pilots were actually FBI agents in disguise and a transnational police operation was about to net them their kingpin. Mr Geraghty was placed in handcuffs and arrested along with his associates. Mr Geraghty had come to the attention of authorities a year before, in 1996, and an elaborate months-long sting took shape to haul in the drugs importer. Just like now, it was said to be Australia’s largest ever cocaine bust at the time.
Following his arrest, Mr Geraghty was soon all over the media. We distinctly remember how a number of us students took great delight in hearing news reporters say his full name, ‘Kevin Michael Geraghty’ on the television news. Why? Because we never knew his name was Kevin. Maybe he didn’t want us to know, as it wasn’t so tough sounding.
Our principal, Mr McNeil, held an emergency assembly the next morning to officially state the news of Mr Geraghty’s arrest.
“Don’t speak to the media, especially to the tv cameras,” Mr McNeil warned the students (and maybe some of the teachers too, some of whom didn’t much like Mr Geraghty).
From that moment on, working in media and journalism always seemed to be a tempting career.
Teachers who worked alongside Mr Geraghty have this week expressed their surprise to True Crime News Weekly about his double life as a home-grown version of Pablo Escobar.
“He was always decent to me on a personal level, and no-one had any idea about the first arrest until it hit the news, and what he was found guilty of being involved in,” one teacher recalled.
“I remember the principal Mr McNeil marching into the gym one day when I was talking to him, and ordering an ex-student off the property. A week or so later, it hit the fan.
“If this latest incident is proven, I doubt whether he’ll ever see the outside of prison walls.”
Former students were also left bewildered by Mr Geraghty’s most recent arrest, which was almost a repeat of what had occurred two decades before.
“He was actually a good teacher, that’s the sad thing about it,” one former student told True Crime News Weekly.
Mr Geraghty was eventually convicted over his first set of cocaine crimes in 2000 and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. Early on in his stint, it was discovered that Mr Geraghty was set upon by other prisoners in Sydney’s Long Bay Jail and ‘shanked’ with a makeshift weapon – most likely members of another drug gang who weren’t all too happy with him for one reason or another.
He was eventually moved to other prisons, including Grafton Correctional Centre, to serve out the remainder of his sentence.
In 2002, Mr Geraghty’s name came up in elite circles, when then-Premier, Bob Carr, named the convicted drug dealer in NSW Parliament in an attempt to shame the then-Opposition leader, Kerry Chikarovski.
“The Leader of the Opposition vaulted over the barbed wire fence at Silverwater to have a lunch with Bassam Hamzy, Kevin Michael Geraghty, a cocaine importer, and Tarkan Tuncbliek [sic], who was serving six years for armed robbery,” Mr Carr said at the time.
Mr Hamzy is the founder of the notorious Brothers For Life gang and is serving a long jail sentence for murder in segregation inside Goulburn’s Supermax prison.
In 2009, Mr Geraghty was once again in the headlines after an investigation by Melbourne’s The Age newspaper revealed that his tried-and-trusted method of importing cocaine from Colombia via Los Angeles to Australia was still being successfully used by men connected to him, including the notorious Maroubra surf gang, The Bra Boys. Employees who worked for catering and refuse companies that serviced airlines would be used to collect shipments of cocaine dumped into the plane’s toilet bins.
“His modus operandi was simple but effective: couriers would strap packs of cocaine onto their bodies and, via a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, stash it in the plane’s rubbish bins,” The Age reported.
“In Sydney, associates of Geraghty who worked at the airport would pick up the plane’s refuse, along with the cocaine.”
It is likely Mr Geraghty made millions of dollars this way. Perhaps he was still pulling strings from behind bars long after his arrest in 1997.
Mr Geraghty was actually released from jail early, only a year or two ago. He was apparently back living in Sydney’s east, at Clovelly. We heard stories of him eating large burgers at Maroubra cafes owned by our mates. Hitting a few gyms to keep that iron pumping. Going to some of the eastern suburbs pubs and having a few quiet ones. He almost even ended up coming to our 15-year school reunion held at the Coogee Bay Hotel last March. But in the end the temptation for one more easy big pay day was too great. And with his fall, there will simply be another Mr Geraghty – a gym teacher, an office worker, a bureaucrat, a corrupt police officer – waiting to replace him. Such is the futility of prohibition and our war on drugs.
Serkan Ozturk from True Crime News Weekly is now working on a book and feature-film idea about the life and times of Mr Geraghty.